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Massage Today
November, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 11

Maintaining Excitement

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Did you look forward to going to work today? Were you attentive as you made up your table for your first client? Were you genuinely pleased to see that client come through the door? How about at the end of the day - were you just as pleased to see your last client of the day enter your place of business?

My guess is that if you're in your first year of practice, you answered, "yes" to all of these questions.

If you're in your fifth year, it is probably less likely that your "yes" was quite as enthusiastic. If you've been practicing 10, 15 or 20 or more years, you might have to pause and think before answering. The premise I am using in all my following observations is that maintaining excitement and freshness in our practice is in our own best interest and the best interest of our clients.

Certainly a number of factors influence your specific responses to these questions. One factor is the body mechanics of the practitioner. I doubt you would look forward to caring for one more client if your own body was in pain from poor body mechanics. Another factor might be client load. More clients per day than your stamina can allow tends to lessen your ability to appropriately focus on additional clients. Likewise, too few clients may mean too much time on your hands, causing boredom.

I'm writing about the topic of excitement because I have observed a subtle change in the massage therapists I have encountered in the past month. The one thing that has changed seems to be the higher stress level of the typical client, the result no doubt of current world situations. In the week following September 11th, I noticed that massage therapists fell into two major groupings. The first had to force themselves to go to work. They preferred to stay in the apparent security of their homes, and they didn't want to see their clients or hear their clients' "petty" complaints of neck/back/shoulder discomfort when people were desperately wandering New York City with pictures of lost family members. The second group couldn't wait to get to work. They looked forward to spending time in an environment where they knew they could effectively participate in something. I'm not making value judgments about either group, as each was just responding to their own coping mechanisms and skills. Certainly if either of the coping methods were to continue, it would be problematic. The first group's practices would quickly dwindle because of lack of interest. The second group's practices also would likely diminish, because the therapeutic relationship would change to benefit the therapist instead of the client. As you know, clients don't like that much!

The higher client stress levels seem to have encouraged the therapists I know to reinvigorate themselves to help others cope. Hopefully this will reignite the fire of excitement these therapists have for their practices.

If the premise is that maintaining excitement and freshness in our practice is in the best interests of both our clients and ourselves, it behooves us to consider more of the things that aid that process. With job excitement, you believe that your work will be satisfying in the long run; you care about the quality of your work; and you are more committed to the therapist/client relationship and the profession as a whole.

An internet web search brings up much (and frequently conflicting) information on job excitement and satisfaction. However, there are many constants in this information that are directly attributable to a career in massage therapy. The "essence" of job satisfaction is to:

  1. meet challenges;
  2. deal with them successfully; and
  3. feel the sense of achievement that success brings.

I certainly get all of these in my clinical practice! I can't imagine a massage setting that doesn't allow for all three of these items to occur regularly. Job satisfaction is not synonymous with complacency, but with enthusiasm! With enthusiasm, you can tackle each Monday morning with drive and ambition. Enthusiasm also minimizes the negatives that are always present in varying degrees. With enthusiasm, even negatives can be turned into opportunities for satisfaction. As an emotion, negative is stronger than positive: dissatisfaction seems to be more motivating than satisfaction. In our practices, this is manifested by our clients' reacting more visibly and immediately (e.g., booking appointments) to pain and/or dysfunction than to a pleasant stimulus.

Another "truism" of job satisfaction is that most workers like their work more if there is little minute-by-minute supervision of tasks. Massage therapy, in a treatment room environment, provides the practitioner such autonomy.

Our work has frequently been termed "intuitive." To a large extent, I think the better therapists among us have honed their intuitive skills to a high degree. However, I think that much of our job satisfaction is related to education. Education gives us the confidence to proceed to our full capacities, and enables us to expand our abilities. It makes it possible to become even more excited about our work. I don't know about you, but the more I learn, the more intuitive I become!

Some textbook-like issues that are particularly applicable to our profession infer that job excitement benefits from:

  • using our abilities - self actualization;
  • doing work that is of value to society;
  • balancing private and professional life; and
  • avoiding the "been there, seen it, done it" syndrome.

Right now, America needs us to be at the top of our game. It needs us to be looking forward to Monday morning. The tensions and stresses inherent in war, threats of war, invisible enemies and the unknown, make our unique skills more important now than they have ever been in the past. The strides that the industry had made in the past decades to educate consumers is now paying off as worried individuals seek out our services and abilities.

I'd love to hear how you keep your excitement level up. Please share your thoughts with others in our "We Get Letters & Email" section. And I hope every one of us can honestly answer "yes" to each of my opening paragraph questions!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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